Friday, 14 November 2014

The 3 Emperors Continued

Before returning to the momentous reign of Zenobios 'the Apostle', I briefly want to return to his predecessor Daniel.

It may seem an odd thing to say in a computer game, that a particular ruler, who happened to be the playable character at a particular moment in the game, instigated a policy of anything. After they are just a picture and a bunch of stats through which the player accesses the database and program for playing the game.

But the truth is, if Daniel had been super-stat'd, of whom great things were expected, perhaps instead of settling for the natural borders of the Sicilian republic, and not pushing vassalage on Benevento, and not getting needled by the Abassids and the Byzantines, and just accepting that peace was better than war, then perhaps it wouldn't have dawned on me just how expensive the wars with Byzantium had been.

I mention this because I noticed a post on the Paradox forum discussing had anyone ever been to war with the Pope, and someone commented that they didn't understand why when he had been to war with the Pope, despite all his money, he only raised a couple of the cheapest mercenary units. I will no doubt at some point in the future discuss the economics of mercenary warfare - and my experiences - but there is a perfectly good reason why the Pope has so much money and uses so few troops, because f he used more troops he would not have so much money.

After the conquest of the Island of Sicily, there was a period of peace that lasted for about 15 years, and in that time the available budget - i.e. the money actually available to spend - went from 2000 gold, to around 10,000 gold. The yearly income at the time being around 2000 per annum, and the money that was spent, was using to upgrade the trade posts, to build improvements in the cities (including the building of 8 universities), and the creation and maintenance of a standing army, which by this stage had grown to around 14,000 men, in two units of 7,000.

All of this was only achieved because there were no wars, and no mercenaries to pay.

But back to Zenobios.

He became the head of the head of the Polkarios clan in 1038.

At the time there were two issues that needed to be dealt with. The first was easier to solve than the second. The first being that the dominance of the trade routes into and along the Adriatic were under threat from the rival trading houses. And the second being that the growing nymber of trade posts in Greece and North Africa, were becoming pawns in an increasingly hostile war of words with the Byzantines and the Abassids.

The first issue was solved in the traditional manner by means of murder plots. The rival families were worked right to left, until a large chunk of trade posts were stacked together, then the holder dispatched and bingo the trade posts are shared among the survivors. It is clearly not an ideal method, becuase there is a huge amount of chance involved, but if you do it often enough, for long enough, you get what you want in the end.

The second issue did not have a ready answer. I didn't want to get into another war, partly because I was enjoying watching the money roll in, but mainly because I had no interest in any of the territory. There were clearly security issues, but my logic was simple, if I could see off the Byzantines with a budget of 2000, then I could certainly fend off any attack by them with a budget of 10,000. And, I really didn't see why the Abassids would be interested in attacking me, when they appeared to be under pressure in the east from the advancing Shia, and the rapidly growing state of Georgia.

And besides the disastrous policy of sacrificing a generation of the Polkarios family to the whims of city politics, instead of setting them up as feudal rulers, meant that even if I did go to war and win, I had next to no-one who could occupy the captured provinces - there certainly wasn't any point in asking the annoyingly large family in Beaumont if they fancied a Dukedom, because they would refuse to come to court, so I couldn't give them the land even if I wanted to (and it would have been a waste due to my idiotic policy of giving out the towns and not the castles). And believe me I did try to get so of the Beaumont residents to come. And by now there were ten or fifteen men in that castle that could have proved useful.

This dynastic issue was not helped by Zenobios, and his vow of absolute chastity.

However this vow of chastity, combined with his zealous nature, and his generally virtuous character - ok he was the guy how instigated blinding people, so he didn't have the kind trait - but he was temperate, and charitable. In short he was the poster boy of the Vatican. Even with the negatives for being caught red handed in the act of murdering his business rivals, his rating with the Pope was never below 90%. And it only took a visit from the chaplain or the chancellor, and a few well placed words, and the Pope was back to loving him again.

And his piety score was huge.

All of which was to pay dividends in 1045 when the Pope called a crusade for Greece.

No sooner had the proclamation been issued than Sicily was signed up.  And despite by now having around 15,000 gold, on the off chance Zenobios wondered - no pressure like, and only if you feel like it - but could the Pope possibly see his way to sending some money. 'Certainly dear boy,' replied the Pope, 'would 5,000 be enough.' 'You couldn't make it 15, could you?'

Zenobios had by this point already used some of his 2,000 piety points to hire every military order available. And with the money from the Pope, 5 of the biggest mercenary unites were hired, and there was still more than 20,000 left to spend.

In all around 50,000 troops were sent. The army arriving before anyone else and set to laying siege to the western coast of Greece. One unit of the standing army was also sent, and used to rotate all the available family members, and all the best soldiers, through it's command positions. With the result that practically every male in the republic had the crusader badge - for doing little more taking a boat trip across the Adriatic, and going on a sightseeing trip to watch the vast army of mercenaries laying siege.

As crusades go this was a bit of a non-event. The Byzantines were taken by surprise - though to be honest for me the only surprise was that it had taken twenty years for the Pope to notice that the supposed bastion of Orthodox Christianity had converted to the heathen.There was a bit of fighting around Athens, a bit more fighting around Constantinople, and that was about the sum total of the campaign. The AI armies did there usual thing of wandering about aimlessly, while we stuck to our task of besieging those towns in western Greece that had our trade posts, which had been the cause of so much diplomatic angst over the past decade.

And then in early 1047, with the warscore barely over 30%, it was all over. The crusade was won..

When you are the Earl of Desmond, crusades are a bit of a novelty. You might take the levy from your capital, and a few chums, and spend three or four months sailing to where-ever, and attach you force of a few thousand men to the largest force you can find, and when you get down to a few hundred or so, disband them and go home. More generally you just sign up to please the Pope without the slightest intention of sailing anywhere. Indeed such a novelty was crusading to me that after my first crusade a misread the option to 'Present Debutante' as 'Distribute Presents', thinking that I would be giving my courtiers some exotic gifts as a token of my adventure - and instead gaining a slow witted, greedy girl who was promptly married off to one of my enemies in Wales in the hope of degenerating their dynasty.

So I clicked 'Praise the Lord' for a successful crusade, and was prepared to go back to back to the business of minding my own business and making money.

When suddenly my jaw hit the floor.

At best I had hoped that I would gain the three coastal provinces that I had successfully sieged.

But no.

The desmense counter showed that I was 169 over my allowed score of 9.

The western Byzantine Empire had ceased to exist. For all practicle purposes the Byzantine Empire had ceased to exist. They had gone from a monolithic entity, to a rump state in Croatia, a couple of provinces in Turkey, and a few bits and pieces in the Caucasus mountains, around the Black Sea, and some fragments in Iraq.

Apparently because I had contributed most to the crusade, everything belonged to me.

To which my reply was, 'I don't want it'.

All I had ever wanted was a nice little republic, and enough land to enure that the republic was secure. Yet suddenly I was looking a gift horse in the mouth, and was inundated with Greeks bearing gifts.

A search of available family members revealed that there were precisely four landless adult males available to which I could give land. They being the sons of those family members with the wit, guile or good fortune to get hold of a castle and establish themselves as feudal lords, and therefore escape the trap of my disastrous city first policy of province distribution - I know I keep banging on about this, but it cannot be emphasized enough how stoopid this was, and if this had not been an Ironman game I would have searched desperately to find a save that would undo this mistake - though it should also be pointed out that at this stage I was still nor aware of the error - that would come much later with an event in Syracuse.

My problem was how to give this away, and more importantly who to give it to?

I decided that for my own protection, I would parcel out the land between the military orders. The dukedoms I would share out among my family. And the Kingdoms I would keep for myself.

At this point in hindsight the city first policy worked in my favour - generally. I paid no heed to the de jure Dukedoms. If a duchy had four counties, then four of the military orders got one county each. The castles and bishoprics were assigned to newly created vassals. It took an hour or so, but in the end I was pleased to just be rid of it all. Oh and I gave Constantinople to the Pope, who was so happy with my that he gave me another 10,000 gold.

Each of the family members got a couple of Dukedoms, distributed without regard to where those Dukedoms were, for instance Nikea was bundles in with Athens. The idea was essentially that if they they would get the prestige, and if they wanted to go and get the land then it was up to them.

And as a totally ill-considered plan, poorly executed, and completely illogical, in the short term it was a work of absolute genius.

Everyone loved me.

Not only was practically everyone in Sicily now a Duke, but they were also a crusading band of brothers. And yes Palermo was the seat of the Duke of Athens, and the Cyprus was now ruled from Bari etc, but it all seemed to be working just fine.

The Pope loved me so much that even with the -250 penalty for borrowing money, our relationship was still 100%.

Indeed the Pope could not have been happier, given that he now had masses of new converts sending him money.

And thus Zenobios became known as 'the Apostle'.

And more importantly the reserve of money that for 150 years had been 2000 gold, had now moved to 15,000 and up to 20,000.

A few of the new majors did go into business, mainly in Nikea. Merchant republics were set up by the Knight's Templars and the Knights of Caltrava, but they were very short lived affairs, lasting at most five or ten years. Perhaps because of the background of those entering the military orders, what tended to happen, and happen rather quicky, was that the majors became replaced by the barons. There was some infighting, which occasionally included the Dukes from my family - and the low born majors who took over the Dukedoms. But in general the main problem I had was despite being as a careful as I possibly could I ended up with vassals that I had no idea who they were, or why I had them. There would be a baron here, or a bishop there, the occasional county that for one reason or another did not form part of a duchal realm included in the vast parcel of land dropped in my lap by the crusade for Greece.

It was at around this time that I realised the power Sicily had become.

My attitude was simple, if you think this vassal or that baron belongs to you, then come and take it off me. There were a few turf wars in Greece, but it was settled simply enough by the dispatch of 20,000 mercenaries, the war were quick and fairly cheap. And it helped matters that three of the military orders were controlled by family members. Thus if one of their members got a bit uppity, they were as likely to be put in their place by their brothers as by me.

In fact the major problem facing the Republic at this time was Malta.

Which although recently converted to Catholicism, had become a hotbed for iconoclasm,  leading to two rebellions. It was to be expected, given the collapse the religious conversion of the Byzantines, and the loss of Constantinople, first to the Muslims and then to the Pope, but far more time and effort - and frankly troops - were committed to trying to solve the issue of heresy in Malta, than anything to do with Greece.

There was a Holy War for Dalmatia in 1054, but that was as much to check a Serbian advance to the sea, than it was to further humiliate the once proud Macadon's. Who didn't cease being proud, and if anything their attitude grew much arrogant and haughty. But I had long since stopped bothering to send diplomatic to curry their favour, with Damacus taking their place in the triangular diplomacy, which included Pavia and Rome.

When Zenobios died in 1063, the issue most pressing to the future of the republic was how to get a vote passed to achieve maximum centralization, thus ensuring a desmense holding of nine.

The root of the problem was gouging peoples eyes out.

Zenobios, having introduced the punishment, pursued it with a passion. His cruelty extending to the torturing to death of a number of prisoners. The more worldly might suggest his extreme chastity may have been the cause of his passion for sadism, but who can say.

The point is that despite there being no factions, and despite there being a general brotherliness engendered by the crusading spirit, people didn't like Zenobios enough to vote for the law change. He didn't help matters by not even attempting to win people round. He simply put up the law, and when it was voted out with hardly any more votes than his own, he would put it up again. It didn't apply to him anyway. His stewardship, combined with his wife and the steward, were enough for the +1 not to be an issue. And the only reason for proposing the change was that it was allowed.

And key to the opposition were the church.

The Pope may have a poster of Zenobios on his bedroom wall, but his own bishops were unlikely to given his, and the regimes general, dishourable conduct in murdering for profit; and at least three of the bishops would have no idea if they had such a poster because they had no eyes. And neither did at least one of the Dukes, or a number of barons and majors.

The blinding was useful for stemming rebellion, and nipping political opposition in the bud, but it was completely counter productive when it came to gaining assent for the passing of this law.

As was the chaotic mess of vassals inherited from the crusade.

It fell to his successor to try and resolve the issue. He was already stressed when elected. But a serious attempt was made to win people around by bribery, and holding a tournament. This got to within 6 votes of passing the new law. But before another attempt could be made, the poor chap was injured trying to save people from a burning house while on crusade, and then caught a chill which finished him off before he got to Jerusalem.

At which point the cause of Centralism got a massive stroke of luck with the election of the Count of Bari, and Duke of a couple of places in Greece.

He inherited much of the goodwill stirred up by his ill-fated predecessor, and it just so happened that at the very moment he was elected, he had been planning a feast - feasting not being an option in a republic, this chance to meet and greet will probably be the first and last in Sicilian history - with the invitations sent out, another round of bribery and awarding of honours commenced, and at the end of the feast, with everyone in a good mood, and agreeing that the new Doge was a very nice man and not at all like that tyrant Zenobios, the bill was once more proposed and duely passed.

Michael then went on pilgrimage, returned to hold a tournament, and then reverted to the being the same old tyrant that the Duke of Amalfi has always been, and presumably always will be.

Soon the eyeballs were rolling around the dungeon floor again, and it was pretty much business as normal.

Michael is known to history as 'the wise', and one of the reasons is that he attempted to solve the issue of Greece.

By the time of his accession in 1064, many of the counties granted to the Military Orders had declared themselves as independent. There were constant rebellions, particularly in those counties controlled by the Knight's Templar. The issue became more pressing when in 1068 a Jihad was called by the Abassids against the Knight's Hospitallers. The principle target for the Jihad was the island of Cyprus, but as a byproduct of this successful Jihad, a number of counties in central Greece also came under Abassid control. The Papal response was almost instantaneous, within a month of the fall of Cyprus a second crusade for Greece was called. The pattern was similar to the first crusade, but the outcome was entirely different, because by now the Polkarios family had matured enough to have the family members needed to absorb and control the newly won territory.

And perhaps more significantly had dropped the city first policy, preferring instead to establish a feudal system. This change in part being adopted due to the Syracuse Event referred to earlier. Where a family member was castrated by the lowborn major, who had also obtained the Dukedoms assigned to the poor chaps father. The success of the crusade proved timely as the castrated kinsman was made a bishop, and his siblings, and all other Polkarios males, where moved out of the cities and made counts and barons in the newly re-conquered Greek territories. The mayor in question was murdered, and it became a priority to bring those counties outside of the direct control of the Doge, into the feudal system, and to get those duchal titles back into the Polkarios family.

Thus began the process of reconstituting the duchies for the purpose of promoting good and sound governance.

All of which made sound entirely obvious and something that should have been sooner, But it flies in the face of the Jeffersonian notions on which the republic had been founded, namely that they should stay clear of foreign entanglements and wars, to fiercely maintain Independence, and it is the manifest destiny of Amalfi to rule the Kingdom of Sicily.

This adoption of the feudal system, and the moves control and re-order Greece, and the internal structure of the Republican state, were the first tangible admission of Imperial design and ambition. And, a rejection of the Jeffersonian principle.

Obviously I realise Thomas Jefferson was not around in 11th Century Italy, but they encapsulate the ideas which underpinned the game I was playing. I say was playing, because the result of the crusade in 1047 changed everything.

The situation in Greece was messy, with a hodge podge of independent counties, military orders, and Sicilian Dukes attempting to push de jure claims, and intermarrying in order to push their own strengthen their duchal titles and positions.

The reality of the situation is that it could have been entirely sorted in a decade, if the issue had been pushed but relations with the Abassids were at breaking point. Two successful crusades. victories in a number of Holy Wars, and the planting of Catholicism in Greece, had effectively made the Sicilian state the champion of Christianity.

By now the first crusader states in Greece were firmly established, if the dynasties controlling them were still rather weak in numeric terms. And guaranteeing their survival was the Sicilian fleet of 230 ships, and the monetary power, reinforced by Papal grants, to put 40,000 troops on the ground without stretching the resources of the state.

Matters came to a head in 1091 when a jihad was called against Sicily.

This caused a great deal of alarm, and indeed anger.

Which is where we reach the point of the story concerning the Caliph's brother's testicles.

The paper strength of the Caliph's army was around 120,000, and the Jihad dragged in a number of allied Muslim states, including what was left of the Byzantine Empire and the Spanish. So in theory the Jihad could muster maybe 180,000 men.

To fight this onslaught the Sicilian army numbered some 17,000 retinue troops, a Levy of around 20,000, and the money to buy every mercenary in Europe, if need be, which at the time was about 80.000 men.

In hindsight it was no contest, and in reality it wasn't either. For the very simple reason that the Muslim's had to come by sea, the largest fleet they had was 320 ships, meaning that the those 30,000 men would immediately be attacked by superior numbers of troops when they landed. And being disorganised, would be beaten and destroyed.

But as I say emotions were running high among those waiting to defend the Sicilian homeland, and it was decided that anyone and everyone captured would be castrated.

Despite torture, particularly blinding being a commonplace punishment for the past 60 years, no one had been castrated. Which explains the outrage caused by the Syracuse Event.

Thus when the first 20,000 jihadi's piled off their boats, and a were soundly thrashed, the castration began.

The first up was an emir in his 50's. And quite by chance, the next on the list was the Caliph's 16 year old brother. I gave the order and was immediately sickened to the pit of my stomach.

Hang on.... I hear you cry.... you are the bloke who throws babies out of windows.... you're the one who has been gouging people's eyes out..... you're the one who not ten minutes ago admitted to torturing people to death.... you have done far worse things than cutting the Caliph's brother's balls off.... what about what you did in Ulster when the ruling family swore vassalage to you and you then systematically destroyed the dynasty by having the married women killed, and then marrying every man matrilineally and every woman to the oldest person you could find from the furthest distant land?

Yeah,  but that was different.... it wasn't done in anger.... and there was a point to it... I gained something... this was just spite.....

I stopped at two... if you'll pardon the pun.... and instead ransomed those who could pay, and blinded those who couldn't.

In truth I was so disgusted at what I had done to that boy that I had to go and have a lie down for half an hour. And I seriously found myself questioning is I really wanted to carry on playing. I mean it is a given that when you play Crusader Kings II you do have to throw - ok you don't have to - but it is an accepted part of the experience that your moral compass gets shelved, if not completely thrown out the window.

Those testicles were to be the source of my more over the next fifty years than any trade post, or county or matter of honour.

And suffice to say that from that day to this, I have scrupulously avoided pushing that button.

The jihad was a total failure.

The fighting lasted about 18 months, before the Caliph realised it was hopeless. By the end of it he was reduced to about 20,000 men, and the Muslim King of Spain was my prisoner, unable to raise the money to pay his ransom.

At which point I counter attack.... which not I have the mercenaries and the military orders at hand.... and take Tunis in 1098 in a Holy War. The Duchy of Tunis fell much earlier but I deliberately dragged the war on systematically sieging my way across North Africa as far as the Moroccan border, and Tobruk, and a show of power and punishment, that was to become a feature of the conflicts in the next century.

The Caliph's attempts to raise the troops to oppose this destruction of his territory only led to further incursions by the Shia, and resulted in an African uprising in Sudan, which further weakened his ability to prevent my locust-like advance.

And because it was a Holy war, and I was spreading Christianity at the point of a sword, the Pope was only too happy to keep sending me money.

The fighting stopped in 1098 when the Pope died, as I didn't want the negatives from the grants affecting the ongoing realtionship.

I would like to say that the settlement of Tunis was without error, but for whatever reason I forgot the lessons learned in Greece, and just doled out the counties, completely forgetting the Syracuse Event. I don't know why. But as soon as I had handed over the last county I cursed myself, and vowed that it would never happen again.

Michael died in 1101.

And the dawning of a new century, heralded the dawning of the decidedly and unashamedly Imperial era of the Sicilian Republic.


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